Violent Crime Rips the Heart out of Family

Bobby Jordan, Sunday Times (Johannesburg), March 12, 2006

Five years ago Sue Seeber’s son was murdered during a violent robbery. Her family photo album is full of newspaper clippings about the unsolved killing.

This week she lost the eighth member of her family to violent crime—her eldest brother was shot in the head on his farm outside Indwe in the Eastern Cape.

Seeber’s photograph album is now a catalogue of tragedy, filled with sad memories.

“You can’t imagine how I feel—to have lost so many family members—it’s unbelievable,” she said. “It’s easy to say I should get over it, but I can’t.”

Seeber, 69, sat stony-faced this week at yet another funeral, that of her brother Johan “Sokkies” Labuschagne, 61, of Vreedepoort Farm.

He was shot twice, in the head and shoulder, after walking in on armed robbers rummaging through his house. His body was discovered by his son, Gysie Labuschagne, who has offered a reward for information about the murder.

Labuschagne said the robbers, who left a packet of “muti” on top of the farm safe, had stolen two revolvers, two pairs of shoes and electrical appliances.

He claimed the prime suspect, who was known to the police, had been terrorising the town for years. “Everybody is afraid of him, blacks and whites,” he said.

By contrast “Sokkies” had been a well-known figure in town, popular across the racial divide. His wife Nomzana was still recovering in hospital this week. Said Gysie: “Everybody knew him—he would help absolutely anybody.”

The farm murder was the second in Indwe this year.

But for Seeber this week’s heartbreak was eerily familiar. “Sokkies” was her second brother to die at the hands of violent criminals.

Her first, Jan Labuschagne, died of a heart attack that doctors said was brought on by a knife attack at his shop in Indwe, during which he was stabbed seven times.

“He was a strong man but he never recovered from the attack,” said Seeber.

By far the biggest trauma in Seeber’s life was the death of her son, Edwin Seeber, who was shot shortly after moving into a new house in Roodepoort, Johannesburg, in 2001.

Five years later she is still bitter that nobody was ever arrested for the crime. The lounge mantelpiece at her home in Steynsburg in the Eastern Cape is still covered with Edwin’s sports trophies.

“We’re only two left out of the family—now only one brother and one sister. This is shocking,” she said.

Seeber, whose husband died of natural causes 10 years ago, believes her arthritis stems largely from her personal trauma.

Her son’s murder and the subsequent death of her mother, from natural causes, prompted intervention from her church, which held a prayer group to help ease her plight.

Seeber’s misfortune dates back to 1987 when her policeman nephew, Gysie Labuschagne, was killed in a shooting incident. Since then, in addition to her son and two brothers, her extended family has lost several other loved ones in violent incidents.

They include:

•Regina Venter, strangled to death with a telephone cord by an intruder who attacked her in nearby Dordrecht;

• Jane Rossouw, assaulted and shot dead on a farm near Dordrecht;

•David van Rensburg, shot dead at his business in East London; and

•Victor Seeber, shot dead in Stutterheim.

And, at least five of her close friends died after being shot in separate incidents: Ian Snyman, Bruce Shelton, Brian Birch, Alan Payne and Bill Edwards.

Seeber’s daughter, Alette Wild, said violent crime had decimated her family. “Why should people have to live like this? It’s not fair,” she said.

“My brother’s [Edwin] murder was the most horrific story you’ve ever heard in your life. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it. You try to deal with it but you never forget.”

Robbers broke in and shot him in his bed in front of his family.

“The worst is that nobody seems to be doing anything about it,” Wild said.

Drakensberg police spokesman Marius Croukamp this week confirmed the latest murder in Indwe.

To date no arrests have been made.

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